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By Iain Bamforth

During this wide-reaching abecedarium, general practitioner and poet Iain Bamforth dissects the clash of values embodied in what we name medicine—never fullyyt a technological know-how and now not fairly the paintings it was once. Bamforth brings to endure his event of drugs from worldwide, from the hightech American health facility of Paris to neighborhood wellbeing and fitness centres of Papua, with his enticing curiosity within the stranger manifestations of scientific concerns with regards to paintings, literature and tradition. Drawing at the lives and ideas of a few of Europe’s most
celebrated writers, from Auden to Zola with stop-offs on the likes of Darwin, Kafka, Orwell, Proustand Weil alongside the way in which, Bamforth deals insightful and witty diagnoses of the tradition of drugs within the sleek age.

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Extra info for A Doctor's Dictionary: Writings on Culture & Medicine

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Art is predicated on the exclusion of death, which obliterates the aesthetic. The only art form I can think of which meaningfully includes it—a spectator sport which culminates in an animal being put to death—is the bullfight. There the risk of failure, of being impaled on the ‘bull’s keen horn’, is a mortal one, as noted by that restrained masochist Michel Leiris in L’Age d’homme; he thought it saved the torero-writer (himself) from an art of mere affectation. The argument is one of authenticity and performance: those same strategists of liberation who had applauded the Anatomical Angel thought the process of selfdiscovery was a tauromachy.

Knock is forty, Faust’s age; though he admits to having completed his thesis only the summer before. Its title? ‘On imaginary states of health’, with an epigraph from Claude Bernard: Les gens bien portants sont des malades qui s’ignorent. Well people are sick people who don’t know it yet. 38 This is a motto about the unwitting patient in all of us, and it turns out, ominously, to be the most telling line in the play. There are already some subtle worrying signs about Knock. He doesn’t know the church feast-days, not even Michaelmas, which is when Dr Parpalaid’s patients are in the habit of paying him.

Charcot took hypnosis seriously as a technique for healing, though the psychoanalytic movement as a whole, fearing that transference and counter-transference would contaminate the psychoanalytic method, shied away from suggestion techniques; even then, hypnosis was to stay in the bag of tricks of many psychoanalysts. Munthe’s thumbnail sketch of Charcot speaks volumes for the magical function of the medicine-man in an age that proclaims itself thoroughly rational: the following passage was actually omitted from the French translation of San Michele, presumably because its hint of diabolism failed to flatter the reputation of the Maître who had dominated French medicine for more than a generation.

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